A fearful leader is not a leader. I’m not saying a leader never fears. Of course he does. I wouldn’t follow anyone who never felt afraid. Such a man is not brave but a fool. When I say “a fearful leader is not a leader,” I’m describing someone who is characterized by fear, overwhelmed with fear, never gets past fear, is dominated by fear, and makes decisions based on fear.
A positive leader is someone who fears but doesn’t stop there, paralyzed and useless. Rather, he takes his fear to the Lord, confesses it, seeks courage to overcome it and to act bravely.
Animals can smell fear. But so can humans! People will be able to tell when cowardice is dominating and directing your decisions, words and actions. They will smell the fear behind your favoritism, excuses, and waffle. They will lose respect for you, stop following you, and even start intimidating you. That’s why I said, “A fearful leader is not a leader.” No one is following him, regardless of his title.
If we focus on pastoral ministry, courageous leadership is demonstrated in evangelism, in preaching the whole counsel of God, in dealing with discipline cases without prejudice, in reforming the church, and in taking unpopular stands against sin in the church and in the world.
This vision of positive leadership may have built up a caricature in your mind of a person who is self-assured, self-confident, and maybe a bit self-centered. However, I want to demolish that by emphasizing lastly that a positive leader is a caring and compassionate person. He is not self-centered but other-centered.
Speaking of pastors in particular, I’ve seen people try to lead congregations through preaching alone; leading from the pulpit. Others have tried to lead through being effective administrators; leading from the computer, you might say. Still others have tried to lead through their growing international reputation; leading a local congregation through non-local accomplishment. And then of course there are the dictators; leading through tyrannical abuse of power.
However, none of these work long-term. A positive leader is out among his people, present with them, caring for them, and providing for them. And that’s not just when illness, bereavement, or problems arise; that would be reactive leadership. No, positive leadership means getting out in front of the problems and trials, getting to know people in the calm, not just appearing in the storm. It’s building relationships over years so that trust and credibility is present when the real difficulties do arise. The positive leader is not just waiting for trouble, he’s positively investing in lives and families over the long-term.
Previous posts in the Positive Leadership series: